Loading...

Remorse in High Places 

D.A. apologizes for wrongful detention, LAPD doesn't

Wednesday, Oct 28 1998
Comments
Carolina Tovar didn't know what to think when the phone rang at her South- Central home last Thursday and the person on the other end said he was Gil Garcetti.

She suspected that the call had something to do with her 17-year-old son Ricky, an honors student in his senior year at Jefferson High School who spent a month in jail for armed robbery - a crime authorities concede he did not commit. The Tovars' battle to get Ricky out was the subject of a Weekly cover story published the day Garcetti called. The story also recounted Ricky's allegation that he was beaten by one of his arresting officers, and it was critical of police and the deputy district attorney, who allowed the case to drag on for weeks and then took the credit when the boy was finally released.

Related Stories

  • Spider-Man Kicked Out of Echo Park Lotus Festival (PHOTO) 2

    In 2010 the masked characters known as the superheroes of Hollywood Boulevard won a huge federal court case that allows them to continue to perform on the Walk of Fame near Highland Avenue. See also: Superheroes Allowed Back On Hollywood Boulevard Thanks To Federal Judge's Ruling The Los Angeles Police Department...
  • Panties Beware

    There's pantsing, and then there's underpantsing. Police this week circulated security images (on the next page) of a man they say has taken pantsing to a new low: He has allegedly pulled down not just the pants of his female victims, but also their underwear. The women were attacked as...
  • 4th DUI Checkpoints

    The 4th of July is, as you well know, one of the drunkest holidays across the land. America! But it's hard to celebrate United States' independence when you're locked up with a bunch of losers. And since this is the land of democracy, the LAPD is giving you a fighting...
  • A Cop's Killing

    Controversial Det. Frank Lyga said he once threatened to reveal to the media that his 1997 shooting of fellow cop Kevin Gaines was "a sanction hit on Gaines by LAPD," according to a memo purported to be written by an officer to Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Earl Paysinger regarding a talk...
  • Here's a Story About a Naked Man, Psychedelic Drugs & 5 Hospitalized L.A. Cops 2

    It's not everyday that Los Angeles police officers get a whiff of a rare psychedelic drug like DMT. But that's what reportedly happened last night after cops responded to a report of a screaming man in Van Nuys. Officers responding to the reported screamer were "exposed to fumes and transported...

Since Ricky's arrest, Carolina has developed a phobia of the police so deep that she rarely leaves the house alone. When the article was published, she was overcome with fear of retaliation. "I am terrified," she said that day. "What if they come back? What if they take him away again?" Thursday morning she had fretted and paced, unable even to sit down.

Now someone was calling the house saying he was the district attorney. She handed the phone to her husband, Salvador, and watched his face closely. After a few minutes, Salvador broke into a smile and told her the news: Gil Garcetti was calling to apologize.

"He said he felt that something had gone wrong and he thought he should apologize," Salvador said. "There was a lot of emotion in me. Here's a man, an important person who has a lot of work to do and a lot of people under him. It was the first time anyone even thought to say they were sorry. I was thankful that the man took the time. I was grateful."

Later that day, Garcetti called again and spoke to Ricky. He asked Ricky to lunch and promised to write a letter of recommendation for his college applications. "He spoke to me about his own life," Ricky said. "He told me he went to Washington High School and he used to play against Jefferson."

Garcetti then asked Ricky if there was anything else he could do. In fact, Ricky did have one request. Upon his arrest, Ricky was listed with the LAPD as an associate of the Clanton Street gang, an affiliation he and his family vehemently deny. Such a listing is usually kept on file for five years before it is eligible for review.

Even after Ricky was found innocent, the police refused to take his name off the list. "So I asked Mr. Garcetti if he could get me off that list," Ricky said. "He told me to call him in January, when I turn 18, and he'd see what he could do." A spokesperson confirmed that the D.A. spoke with the family, but said Garcetti declined to comment for this story.

Garcetti's call went a long way to ease the Tovars' anxieties. But the LAPD took a distinctly different tack.

On Sunday, October 18, two sergeants from Newton Station appeared at the Tovar home on 35th Street and said they wanted to question Ricky. When Salvador told them his son was not home and asked what they wanted, they refused to say.

They returned to the house later that day - this time accompanied by several police cruisers stationed at either end of the block and officers with binoculars trained on the Tovar home.

Salvador invited the sergeants in, and one of them, Sergeant Martin Spann, sat down with the family at the dining-room table. The other, Sergeant Larry Maillet, remained standing throughout the half-hour meeting. "They were not in a friendly mood," Salvador said. The sergeants told the family they were there to investigate Ricky's charge that he was beaten by an officer the night of his arrest, a charge they had learned of through calls from the Weekly.

Before they took Ricky's statement, one of the sergeants had strong words of warning. "They said that making a false accusation against an officer is a misdemeanor," Salvador said. "They wanted him to know he was liable for criminal prosecution if he lied, which was really not necessary because Ricky was going to tell the truth no matter what."

Ricky told them what he had told his parents shortly after his arrest: that one of his arresting officers had taken him up a narrow stairway at Newton Station, tightened his handcuffs all the way, raised his arms over his back and slammed his head into walls and doorways. "You don't think you're such a badass now," Ricky recalled the officer saying.

After Ricky completed his statement, the sergeants turned off the tape recorder. "My impression was that they were not really concerned about Ricky," Salvador said. "They were more concerned about clearing their men. That's the way I felt at the time. That was their biggest concern."

Spann, who was reached at Newton Station, would not comment on his interview with the Tovars or on the status of the investigation, saying only, "We are doing an administrative investigation concerning the officers that were involved in the incident."

Related Content

Now Trending

Los Angeles Concert Tickets

Slideshows

  • 21st Annual Classic Cars "Cruise Night" in Glendale
    On Saturday, spectators of all ages were out in multitudes on a beautiful summer night in Glendale to celebrate the 21st annual Cruise Night. Brand Boulevard, one of the main streets through downtown Glendale, was closed to traffic and lined with over 250 classic, pre-1979 cars. There was plenty of food to be had and many of the businesses on Brand stayed open late for the festivities The evening ended with fireworks and a 50th anniversary concert from The Kingsmen, who performed their ultimate party hit, "Louie, Louie." All photos by Jared Cowan.
  • The World Cup Celebrated And Mourned By Angelenos
    The World Cup has taken Los Angeles by storm. With viewings beginning at 9 a.m., soccer fans have congregated at some of the best bars in the city including The Village Idiot, Goal, The Parlour on Melrose, Big Wang's and more. Whether they're cheering for their native country, favorite players or mourning the USA's loss, Angelenos have paid close attention to the Cup, showing that soccer is becoming more than a fad. All photos by Daniel Kohn.
  • La Brea Tar Pits "Pit 91" Re-Opening
    Starting June 28th, The Page Museum once again proudly unveils the museum's Observation Pit, which originally opened in 1952 but has spent most of the last half century closed. Now visitors can get an up-close look at Pit 91, which is currently under excavation. The La Brea Tar Pits, home of the Page Museum, is one of the world's most famous ice age fossil locations, known for range of fossils from saber-toothed cats and mammoths to microscopic plants, seeds and insects. The new "Excavator Tour" is free with museum admission if purchased online at tarpits.org . All photos by Nanette Gonzales.